Friday, July 31, 2009

The Beatles will reunite before Jim Balsillie is an NHL owner

I’m beginning to believe that Jim Balsillie is at the end of the road in his quest for an NHL team whether he is willing to accept it or not. He met with the NHL Executive Committee this week to respond to his bid for the Coyotes and the Committee members were lining up to take shots at him. They voted unanimously to reject his offer which says it all. He hasn’t a single ally among NHL owners.

This is not surprising considering his history with the league. Although he has the resources to purchase a team, they feel his personality and character are not appropriate for the NHL. That’s quite a condemnation considering some owners and former owners are in jail. The owners feel that his actions show a total disregard for league rules and have in fact damaged the league. It has been reported that his response in the interview was he would challenge the league’s assertions.

  • Balsillie first annoyed the NHL by walking away from his bid to purchase the Penguins. Instead of working with the league to close the deal he balked at their conditions and walked. He didn’t disguise the fact that his motive was to move the team and not try to keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh.
  • He has since repeatedly suggested that he was accepted as an owner back then although he chose not to buy the Penguins. This has only created more animosity.
  • The league was furious when Balsillie began marketing Predators tickets in Hamilton before he bought the team. Former owner Nashville Craig Leipold went after Balsillie this week for using his Predator trademark without permission and destabilizing the Nashville market.
  • Montreal owner George Gillett is mad at him because he leaked the fact that the Canadiens were for sale. Following the news the team began to struggle. Gillett believes that the team was distracted by the news. Gillett is not a Gary Bettman surrogate. His hostility is genuine.
  • Of course the owners of the Leafs and Sabres are upset because he wants to move a team into their territory without any offer of compensation.
  • Every owner is angry that he has dragged the league into bankruptcy court over the Coyotes. He has embarrassed the league.

Balsillie’s problem is that his approach that has been so successful in the business world does not work in sports. Hostile takeovers, lawsuits and intimidation can get you far in the corporate world but leave you out in the cold when it comes to professional sports which operate on a separate set of rules and protocols. He either has refused to accept the reality or just doesn’t get it. He has taken his crusade to the Canadian public to get their support but we aren’t the decision makers here. We have no influence over the NHL Governors. Instead of battling the league over the past 5 years he should have been nurturing allies. But Jim isn’t the nurturing type.

There may be a second team in the GTA one day but it won’t be owned by the blackberry guy.